Monday, July 1, 2013

July 2: Song "Taps" is played

On this date in History ... July 2, 1862:

The song “Taps” is played for the first time. 

Civil War general Daniel Butterfield (later a Medal of Honor recipient) modified the current “Lights Out” bugle call that signaled the end of the day as it felt it was too formal.  Working with his bugler, Oliver Norton, the 24-note song was modified and played, the sounds drifting over to other Army units. Buglers from those units came to Norton and asked for the music.  Without any official command to do so, the song drifted into Army units, used by Union and Confederate units alike.  

The song was officially recognized by the U.S. Army in 1874.  The first Taps played at a military funeral was by Captain John Tidwell in July 1862 when his cannoneer was killed but with the enemy so close, Tidwell feared the military traditional firing of three cannon shots would incite enemy fire.  

It is played nightly at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

General Butterfield died in 1901. Even though he never attended West Point, his tomb is the most ornate in the West Point cemetery.

While there are no official lyrics for Taps, the following unofficial verse (author unknown) is often used:

    Fading light dims the sight,
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. 

    From afar drawing nigh -- Falls the night.
    Day is done, gone the sun,
    From the lake, from the hills, from the sky; 

    All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
    Then good night, peaceful night,
    Till the light of the dawn shineth bright;
    God is near, do not fear -- Friend, good night.

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